PUBLIC SERVICE IN THE NEWS | Public service workers, charities and the US

America’s inhumane approach to labour problems will finish Obama > The US remedy for their plight is similar to the idea behind Britain’s “big society”: leave it to churches, voluntary associations and “the community” to sort out the personal and family consequences of long-term unemployment. In practice, that means individuals are thrown back on themselves, since one real effect of the recession has been to beggar many of these civil-society institutions. Familiar as this issue is to Britons, it’s only beginning to dawn on US officials that civil society is not rich.

Work Programme leaves charities fearful for their future > Voluntary groups in the employment sector that have not won contracts – and some that have – are increasingly afraid of being squeezed. Crisis, the homelessness charity, spent hundreds of hours preparing pitches to send to potential contractors, but found just one that was viable to work with; and that contractor subsequently failed to win a deal from the government.

Open Public Services: what about the workers? > If the government is to modernise public services, it must first modernise the outdated employment culture within them.

UK union leader Brendan Barber will urge unions to build new ‘green’ economy >While critics of the trade union movement and the Labour party say the organisations have no tangible alternative to the coalition government’s defict-reduction programme, Barber will say that the TUC and the 55 unions it represents have to “win the intellectual debates as well as the industrial battles … We’ve got to build a mass movement for change.” Barber will argue: “It’s marketisation and privatisation on a huge scale – warmer words when they are wrapped up as localism and the big society – but the same old hard-right ideology.”

Alan Dee: Parent power puts free schools in freefall > BACK to school time is upon us, and this term we’re expected to get our heads around yet another pie in the sky educational initiative dreamed up by politicians with little experience with the sharp end of state education. Every supposed step forward of recent years has been foisted on us for the most part by millionaire men in suits. The idea of local people setting up schools scores a big tick with the government’s Big Society agenda.The big idea here is ‘free schools’ – but the catch is that they’re more expensive as far as the taxpayer is concerned because of the carrots that have to be dangled in order to get people to take the plunge.

Keep the mail going, Congress > The fact is, delivering the mail the way Americans have grown accustomed to having it delivered — anywhere, six days a week, for a price that would hardly cover a couple of miles worth of gas — hardly sounds like a business model. And yet we expect the U. S. Postal Service to operate like a business, even as we demand that it provide services like, well, a public service.


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